Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

APS Creates Learning at Home Guide — “We have created a Learning at Home webpage that pulls details on instruction, additional educational resources for families, activities and resources for coping with stress. If you have questions, please send them to [email protected]” [Arlington Public Schools, Twitter]

How to Report Price Gouging in Virginia — “If you see excessive price increases for coronavirus (COVID-19) necessities, report it to Attorney General Mark Herring’s office.” [Facebook, Attorney General Mark Herring]

Costco Encouraging Social Distancing — Costco in Pentagon City has had lines out of the door every morning since the start of the coronavirus crisis. The line has gotten longer — and more spread out — in the interest of social distancing. [Twitter]

Airports Remain Open — Reagan National Airport remains open, reportedly with no plans to limit access. Most stores and restaurants at DCA also remain open, but with modified hours. [Twitter, Twitter]

Signature Theater Show Goes Online — “Signature Theater in Arlington, Va., is looking to make its production of Dani Stoller’s ‘Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes’ available online to ticketholders.” [New York Times]

Ramen Shop Offering Free Food for Seniors — “Gaijin Ramen Shop management and staff are heartbroken by elders without food because of the COVID-19 pandemic… We are offering FREE delivery of fresh vegetable ramen soup to any elderly in need.” [Community Post]

Free Pizza for Kids at Troy’s Italian — “On March 20, from 12-8 p.m. we will be doing free pizza slices for kids. We are also offering contactless curbside pickup. Call us at (703) 528-2828 when you get here, and we will bring the food out, and put it into the trunk of your car for you.” [Facebook]

Vehicle Inspection Enforcement Suspended — “Governor Northam has directed the Virginia Department of State Police to suspend the enforcement of Motor Vehicle Safety Inspections for 60 days.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

New Local Facebook Page — “Community activist and Arlingtonian Kellen MacBeth has centralized tools and resources for people in need during the coronavirus outbreak. His Facebook page, Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19, is up to 2,000 members in just one day of its existence.” [WDVM]

Nearby: Coronavirus Strikes Falls Church Senior Center — “A resident at The Kensington assisted living center in the City of Falls Church has tested positive for COVID-19, the Fairfax County Health Department reported today. It is the first reported case of the coronavirus in the City.” [Falls Church News-Press, Twitter]

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Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings.

MotoRefi, a Ballston-based car refinancing company, has fueled up with a new batch of funding and welcomed a former Uber executive along for the ride.

The company just raised $8.6 million in Series A funding, an announcement that was paired with news that former Uber executive and D.C.-based venture capitalist Rachel Holt is joining the company’s Board of Directors. Holt was an early investor in MotoRefi but joined the company in an official capacity this month.

“I’m eager to bring my experience building Uber to MotoRefi’s Board,” Holt said in a press release. “MotoRefi is transforming the world of auto financing. I’m proud to have been an early investor and am extremely excited about the team they’ve built.”

The press release noted that the new funding will allow the company to scale up with new lenders and partners.

MotoRefi checks your auto loan interest rate and tries to offer a better rate than what is provided by the dealership, factoring in things like improved credit scores.

“You make payments every month, but do you ever wonder if you could be paying less?” the company said on its website. “That’s where MotorRefi comes in.”

The company, started in 2017, aims to simplify the refinancing process to make it more accessible for the average driver still making payments on their car.

Photo courtesy MotoRefi

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Morning Notes

Metro Tests New Tech in Pentagon City — The Transportation Security Administration and Metro rolled out new security technology at the Pentagon City Metro station on Tuesday. The system “can detect an individual concealing an improvised explosive device, such as a suicide vest or another weapon.” [Fox 5, Twitter]

HQ2 Leads to Development Boom — “Arlington officials, developers, market researchers — everyone, really — predicted that Amazon.com Inc.’s arrival in the county would generate a development boom in the company’s neighborhood. So far, they’ve been right.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tafti Sworn in as Prosecutor — Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was sworn in Monday as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. On Tuesday she warned a crowd at a progressive think tank there has been a “growing narrative in pretty extreme circles that trying to reimagine the criminal-legal system is somehow going to make us less safe…somehow disrespects victims.” [Twitter, Blue Virginia]

Airport Authority Voting on $15 Wage — After years of protests, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is set to vote today on a new policy that would increase the hourly wages of contracted workers — baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, lobby agents, skycaps, cabin cleaners, airport concessions and airline catering workers — from $12.75 to $15 by 2023. [Press Release]

Beyer Pushing for Quieter Airplanes — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has long advocated against excessive noise from aircraft landing at and taking off from Reagan National Airport, is calling on NASA to study ways to make commercial jetliners quieter and cleaner in a new bill. [Press Release]

Northam Proposes Nixing Vehicle Inspections — “Gov. Ralph Northam wants to end state-mandated vehicle safety inspections and cut vehicle registration fees in half, proposals his administration says would eventually save Virginians more than $280 million per year. But motorists would have to pay a few dollars more each time they fill up on gas under a proposal to increase the state’s motor vehicle fuels tax from about 22 cents per gallon to 34 cents per gallon over three years.” [Virginia Mercury]

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Someone stole airbags from numerous vehicles in the Shirlington area early Wednesday morning.

Police responded to the 2700 block of S. Quincy Street in Shirlington and along S. Glebe Road and S. Veitch Street in the nearby Long Branch Creek neighborhood on the morning of Nov. 15 for a report of vehicles that had been broken into overnight.

Officers found “approximately nine vehicles had their windows smashed and airbags stolen.” So far, there’s no word on a suspect or suspects.

More from an Arlington County Police crime report:

LARCENY FROM AUTO (series), 2019-11130054/11130089/11130115, 2700 block of S. Quincy Street/S. Veitch Street at S. Glebe Road/2700 block of S. Glebe Road. At approximately 7:38 a.m. on November 13, police were dispatched to the report of multiple vehicles that had been broken into. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that approximately nine vehicles had their windows smashed and airbags stolen. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

File photo

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A new car-sharing company for quick trips or all-day rentals has quietly rolled out vehicles in Arlington and D.C.

The sedan ARLnow spotted in the Bluemont neighborhood was discreet, with a sticker reading “dash” on the driver’s side door. It is part of the “Penske Dash” car-sharing venture recently launched by Michigan automotive services company Penske Corp.

However, the service’s debut is “awkward” timing considering Car2Go has been cutting service, and General Motors, Lime and BMW have also pulled out from their car-sharing programs, as TechCrunch reported.

The former CEO of Car2Go, Paul Delong, is leading local operations for Dash, per TechCrunch.

Dash’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Montri told ARLnow today (Thursday) that the company was choosing to invest anyway because Penske’s focus on slow growth for the program, experience in automotive, and partnership with Colonial Parking would help it succeed where others had failed.

“As the automobile industry undergoes rapid change, alternative transportation models are becoming more common place, particularly in densely populated urban areas,” he said. “Mobility as a Service (MaaS) provides a hassle-free and environmentally friendly alternative to private car ownership.”

Montri added that Arlington and D.C. were “great” spots to pilot Dash because “residents of these communities have shown an interest in, and comfort with, new mobility models,” and the local governments were willing to work with companies offering new transit programs.

Penske joins French company Groupe PSA, which also launched its own car-sharing program “Free2Move” in the D.C. area in June. Groupe PSA’s program now operates around 600 vehicles in D.C. and Arlington, according to industry news site Automotive News.

Montri did not answer how many Dash cars Penske planned to roll out in the county when asked by ARLnow.

Dash works in a similar way to competitors like Free2Move and Car2go: users download an app to create an account, locate an available Volkswagen Jetta, and unlock it with the app to get behind the wheel.

Users can then “return” the cars by parking anywhere it is street legal in Arlington or D.C. However, the service’s warns people to avoid underground garages where apps can struggle for signal.

Dash credits up to $25 to fuel up the cars, but users pay the rest, along with a 45 cent charge per minute spent driving the car. The difference between Dash and its competitors, Montri said, was better vehicle upkeep and customer service.

Montri’s full statement about Dash is below.

As the automobile industry undergoes rapid change, alternative transportation models are becoming more common place, particularly in densely populated urban areas. Mobility as a Service (Maas) provides a hassle-free and environmentally friendly alternative to private car ownership. 

Penske has a legacy in transportation solutions, spanning automobiles, services and trucks. We bring our expertise to the marketplace, and alongside our partners, Penske Dash offers best-in-class quality and operational excellence.

Our entry into any market will be methodical as we grow in partnership with local communities, pursuing customer satisfaction and repeat business as primary metrics rather than number of users or vehicles. Additionally, both the A-to-B and rent-by-minute models provide added flexibility for those who may not wish to return their rental to the same starting point, or return, by a specific time.

In Washington DC, Penske Dash’s partnership with Colonial Parking gives members a guaranteed free parking solution in dense, city center areas so they can avoid struggling to find street space.

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A string of vehicle break-ins in north Arlington is continuing, but this time a suspect might have been caught on camera.

Someone stole a cell phone from an unlocked car in a garage on the 4700 block of N. Carlin Springs Road late Thursday night or early Friday morning, according to Arlington County Police.

“Between 11:00 p.m. on September 12 and 3:10 a.m. on September 13, an unknown suspect entered an unlocked vehicle inside a garage and stole a cell phone,” ACPD said of the theft. “The investigation is ongoing and detectives will work to determine if this case is linked to any others reported in Arlington County.”

An anonymous resident in the same area as the break-in, a few blocks from Ballston, contacted ARLnow with video footage (above) of a man looking into a vehicle behind a house, taken that same night. Nothing appears to have been taken in the video, however, and police declined to confirm whether the person seen is a suspect in the theft.

ACPD was notified about the video, the resident said.

The video was taken with an Ring video camera. Arlington County Police are considering a public safety partnership with the Amazon-owned company, the Washington Business Journal reported last week, despite concerns nationally about the privacy implications of such partnerships.

On Ring’s Neighbors app, at least a half dozen car break-ins have been reported in and around Arlington over the past week — mostly involving unlocked vehicles. ACPD has been reminding residents to lock their cars and homes at night as part of a public safety initiative dubbed the “9 P.M. Routine.”

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Mechaniku is built on a simple frustration: no one likes waiting for their car to get worked on. So Mechaniku will work with users to have a mechanic sent out to change their oil.

The company is based along Columbia Pike, where co-founders Jesse Tyler and Clifton Hartsuff live.

“In a society fast becoming overtaken by technology I am shocked this is not already a common service provided in every city,” Tyler said. “We live in a world of convenience and I believe people will pay for this service because it ultimately makes lives easier. It takes a time-consuming and aggravating practice and simplifies it.”

The company currently only has one service: a full synthetic oil change in 30 minutes for $100. It’s a little pricey as far as oil changes go, which average a little under $50. But Tyler said the convenience is part of the cost.

“It’s about the convenience of having someone come to your home,” Tyler said. “We did one for a guy here on Columbia Pike… he said ‘I’ll pay $150 if it means I don’t have to get out of my pajamas and go sit in a line on Sunday morning.'”

Tyler said half of the $100 goes to the mechanic, while the other half goes to the company. The goal, Tyler said, is to connect qualified mechanics with freelance jobs to help make some money on the side.

In the future, Tyler said the company could expand to tire rotation and other light car maintenance jobs, but he’s in no rush to grow.

“I think several of the groups on the market with a similar model have made the mistake of trying to do everything instead of focusing on doing a service well and what they end up doing by trying to do everything is not doing a very good job of anything,” Tyler said. “We seek to be the best at offering on demand oil changes to our customers with the ultimate goal of providing excellent service and giving them time back.”

Tyler said the pricing and types of oil changes could also change over time as the company continues to refine its business model. The company’s app is currently available on Android and Tyler said the company is working to get it onto the Apple App Store on iOS.

“My father always told me not to reinvent the wheel,” said Tyler. “So we’ve taken an existing business and improved on it.”

Image via Mechaniku

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Morning Notes

What To Do If Your Car Flooded — “If your car was one of the many trapped by floodwaters on or below street level Monday, you should resist the urge to start it up once the waters recede… The best option, Townsend said, is to tow the vehicle to a reputable mechanic who can certify whether there is any damage to the many electronic components in modern cars and trucks.” [Washington Post]

ACPD Helps Out Flooded Family — “After learning about an Arlington family whose apartment flooded during today’s storm, the Outreach Team activated and donated toys to the children! The family is receiving additional assistance and will soon move into a new unit.” [Twitter]

TSA Stops Man With Loaded Gun at DCA — “An Arlington, Virginia, resident was cited by police after Transportation Security Administration officers detected a loaded handgun in the man’s carry-on bag at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on Sunday, July 7. It was the 11th gun that TSA officers have detected at the airport so far this year.” [Press Release]

Injury Investigation in Clarendon — On Monday morning, before the flooding, numerous police and fire department units responded to a condominium building at 1021 N. Garfield Street in Clarendon for a report of a man injured under suspicious circumstances. “The male was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. No evidence of a crime was located during the investigation,” an Arlington County police spokeswoman told ARLnow. “Police continue to investigate how the subject sustained the injury.” [Twitter]

Arlington 11th Grader Wins at Chess Tourney — “Sam Schenck, an 11th-grader at H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, defeated Langley High School 11th-grader Isaac Chiu in a dramatic last-round game to win the K-12 competition of the 2019 Arlington Scholastic Open chess competition, held June 8 at Yorktown High School.” [InsideNova]

Amazon Visits Gov. Northam — “Today we met with @GovernorVa for an update on the first phase of #HQ2 plans. We thank the Commonwealth for our continued partnership and for providing a business-friendly environment as we build the future together.” [Twitter]

Monday Readership Stats — On Monday, just over 71,000 people visited ARLnow, mostly to keep up to date about the flood emergency. That’s nearly a third of the population of Arlington. Thank you for reading and making us your go-to local news source, we’re proud to serve the community!

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Arlington ranks high for lots of things — parks, fitness, bike friendliness, livability — but not so much when it comes to safe driving.

Allstate’s just-released 15th annual America’s Best Drivers Report ranks Arlington No. 168 out of 200 cities studied.

According to the insurance company, drivers in the county go an average of 7.4 years between car insurance claims (compared to a national average of 10.57 years) and have an average of 25.3 “hard-braking events” per 1,000 miles (compared to the national average of 19).

The good news: Arlington drivers are getting safer. The county’s 2019 ranking is an improvement over 2013, when it was ranked 10th worst in the country.

Arlington also ranks better than other nearby cities. Washington, D.C. ranks No. 199 and Baltimore is dead last at No. 200. Alexandria, meanwhile, slots in at No. 192.

In Alexandria, Route 1 (Richmond Highway) was said to be the most “risky road” to drive on. In D.C., I-295 was the riskiest road, according to Allstate’s data.

Top on the list this year: drivers in Brownsville, Texas ranked No. 1, going 14.9 years between crashes on average.

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So you have a Tesla or some other electric car, but where in Arlington can you charge it?

Most of the electric car stations are grouped around Arlington’s Metro corridors, according to ChargeHub, a website that tracks charging stations. Charging stations follow a line between Rosslyn and Ballston, for instance, and there are 22 throughout the Crystal City and Pentagon City area alone.

But finding stations outside of those areas can be a hassle.

One bank of electric chargers is located along Columbia Pike at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street). In Shirlington, an electric car charging station is located at the Campbell Avenue parking garage.

Additionally, there are three charging stations in residential North Arlington:

  • Discovery Elementary School (5301 36th Street N.)
  • Harris Teeter (2425 N. Harrison Street)
  • Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 N. Marcey Road)

There are seven Tesla-specific charger locations in Arlington.

  • Two Liberty Center (4075 Wilson Blvd) — Four Tesla connectors available to the public
  • Clarendon Square (3033 Wilson Blvd) — Two Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • Market Common Clarendon (2800 Clarendon Blvd) — 18 Tesla Superchargers
  • 2311 Wilson Blvd (2311 Wilson Blvd) — Three Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • 1320 N. Courthouse Garage (1320 N. Courthouse Road) — Two Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City (1250 S. Hayes Street) — Two Tesla connectors, available for patrons only
  • Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel (2800 S. Potomac Avenue) — Two Tesla connectors, available for patrons only

Meanwhile, if your car is charged and you’re looking for fellowship with other electric car enthusiasts, a local group of residents has formed the Arlington Solar and EV Charger Co-op, with the goal of making it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels and electric vehicle chargers.

The group is planning to hold an information session on Thursday (June 27) from 6:30-8 p.m., at the Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) to discuss solar energy, electric vehicles, and simplifying the “going solar” process.

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The video (below) was jarring: cars driving through muddy flood waters that nearly reached the tops of tires.

Even more jarring: this was happening along busy Columbia Pike, a route not noted for being flood-prone, during the evening rush hour.

The scene yesterday evening was captured on video by a passerby, showing floodwaters inundating a low-lying section of the Pike near S. Greenbrier Street. As commenters pointed out this morning, driving through flooded roads is a bad idea, but despite repeated reminders to “turn around, don’t drown,” drivers continue willfully operating their vehicles as if they were hovercraft.

(A spokesman with Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services tells ARLnow the department is still investigating the flooding and “looking into whether there were any construction-related obstructions in the storm sewer inlets.”)

Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage this morning offered the following tips for driving during heavy rain and potential flooding situations.

Residents are reminded to:

  • Sign up for Arlington Alert to receive emergency notifications including severe weather alerts.
  • Whenever possible, limit travel during times of severe weather.
  • Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast.
  • It is never safe to drive or walk into flood waters. If you see a flooded roadway, seek an alternative route.
  • According to the National Weather Service, 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. Play it safe, Turn Around Don’t Drown.
  • If you see a hazard, report to the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

Those tips may come in handy tonight. A Flash Flood Watch is set to take effect at 2 p.m. From the National Weather Service:

…FLASH FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 PM EDT THIS EVENING… * THUNDERSTORMS WITH HEAVY RAINFALL ARE EXPECTED TO DEVELOP ACROSS THE WATCH AREA THIS AFTERNOON AND LINGER INTO THE EVENING. LOCALIZED RAINFALL TOTALS OF SEVERAL INCHES ARE POSSIBLE. THIS COULD LEAD TO FLASH FLOODING, ESPECIALLY IN THE URBAN AREAS. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS THAT CONDITIONS MAY DEVELOP THAT LEAD TO FLASH FLOODING. FLASH FLOODING IS A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION. YOU SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION SHOULD FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS BE ISSUED. &&

The video from last night’s flooding is below.

Photo via Becky Haberacker/Twitter

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